UPDATE 2/22/2017: The South Dakota bill that would allow teachers to stray from educational standards in science education has been defeated in the House Education Committee. It was defeated on a 6-9 vote.
According to the National Center for Science Education, "in the days before the hearing, there was a groundswell of opposition to the bill, as NCSE previously reported, from both state and national organizations, including scientific, science education, civil liberties, and environmental groups."
NCAC was one of those groups and applauds the decision of the House Education Committee in choosing to safeguard educational standards in science in South Dakota schools.
The National Coalition Against Censorship and other organizations committed to defending First Amendment rights in schools are objecting to a South Dakota bill deemed by critics to threaten educational standards in science education, particularly in the areas of climate change and global warming.
S.B. 55, termed “an An Act to Protect the Teaching of Certain Scientific Information,” is, according to the bill, intended so “no teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information.” Critics of the legislation highlight its vague wording, which has the effect of removing accountability in science education.
Essentially, it removes the restraints on teachers that prevents them from straying from professionally-developed science standards adopted by state educators. The bill, which was introduced by a senator who previously supported legislation designed to promote the teaching of creationism, may encourage teachers who object to the scientific consensus on evolution and climate change to bring their opinions into the classroom.
Proponents of the legislation incorrectly argue that the legislation is necessary to protect free speech and academic freedom. The groups underline that there is no First Amendment justification for legislation that undermines the integrity of science education in the state.
The groups, however, maintain that the Constitution protects professional educators and disciplinary experts who develop curricular materials in order to provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to progress academically and to function as informed citizens. The First Amendment does not require the teaching of every opinion on a subject, because not all ideas are equally valid. A person who denies the Holocaust, for example, is entitled to have that belief but not to teach it in a public school history lesson.
The letter is signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Teachers of English, Authors Guild and PEN America.
Read the letter below; click here for a full screen view.